With just 14 days left in the MLB regular season, it’s that time of year when teams, and fans, begin to gear up for the playoffs. Along with playoff baseball comes more eyes, and in today’s world, that means more money wagered on games. When the season opened the two 2017 World Series participants – the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers — had the best odds of winning this year’s title, but of course, over the season things have changed. While the Boston Red Sox have torn the league apart this season, their title odds have steadily increased from seventh in the pre-season to the point that they are now the lone favorite at 4:1 (+400). However, despite the Red Sox performance this season they aren’t the only team to consider putting your money down on. These are the three best underdog teams to look at as a potential 2018 World Series Champion.
The Houston Astros – 17/4 Odds (+425)
Yes, the Astros have only slightly worse odds than the Red Sox, but they’re a better bet for a couple reasons. First, they could be better a better team than last year. The additions of Gerrit Cole and Roberto Osuna give Houston both a stronger rotation and bolstered the bullpen. They — along with a full season of Justin Verlander — have helped the ‘Stros to the best team ERA in the entire league by more than a third of a run. The second reason is that their starting pitching has been more consistent than the Red Sox in recent playoffs. The Sox will likely be relying on Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello as their three main starters during the postseason. Sale, excellent as he’s been in the regular season, had a relatively terrible series last year against the Astros, giving up nine earned runs in 9.2 innings. That was his first experience in the playoffs, and he has yet to prove himself on that stage. Porcello and Price both had some success in relief roles against Houston last season, but both have also had difficulty when starting playoff games. Porcello has a 6.30 ERA in 20 innings as a postseason starter and while Price has a little more postseason experience, the picture isn’t much prettier. He has a 5.74 ERA in 58 innings. Pitching becomes even more important in the playoffs, and that will give the defending champs the edge over Boston.
Atlanta Braves – 10/1 Odds (+1000)
While the Braves may not be a more talented team than the Sox, but their odds, along with the talent they’ve shown this year, and the easier path through the National League, making them a better value bet. Atlanta was a World Series longshot (175:1) when the season began, but their stellar play this season has made them much more respected going into the playoffs. They have the (should be) obvious Rookie of the Year in Ronald Acuna Jr., a legitimate MVP candidate in Freddie Freeman, and a rotation that doesn’t have a starter with an ERA over 4.00. They have a solid team from the starting rotation to the bench and should make any playoff series tough. Not only do the Braves have all that talent, but they’re also heating up at the right time. Despite dropping their last two to the Washington Nationals, Atlanta has won six of their last eight, and have scored 39 runs in their last eight games. Though they may not have the most talented team, they may have the most talent in the National League and if they can make it to the World Series, anything can happen; they’re well worth the value.
Los Angeles Dodgers – 10/1 Odds (+1000)
Ok, yes, both of last year’s World Series participants are on this list of teams to bet on, but it’s just so hard not to. The Dodgers came into the season as a favorite to represent the NL once again, but after some injury troubles and a slow start to the season, they have never returned to their odds from the pre-season (5:1/+500). This means that they would provide good value even if the team hadn’t improved, but of course, Los Angeles did just that with their acquisition of Manny Machado, John Axford and Brian Dozier. The Dodgers have the best run differential and team ERA in the National League to go along with the third-best OPS in the MLB. There really isn’t a ton of explaining to do here. The Dodgers are a team that is just as good as they were last year when they came within a game of being World Series Champions, and they simply aren’t being priced accordingly.
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